08/22/2012 12:54PM

Northlands Park: Country Button looks strong in Esquirol Farms Sales Stakes


Country Button and Sharp as Ever look like the main players in the $38,000 Esquirol Farms Sales Stakes at Northlands Park on Friday. The six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds drew eight horses and goes as race 8 on the nine-race card, which begins at 6 p.m. Mountain.

To be eligible for the race, horses must have gone through the Esquirol Farms summer yearling and guests sale last year. The sale will not be held this year.

Country Button figures to be favored over Sharp as Ever. A $10,000 buy-back, Country Button is the only winner in the field, and he is coming off a sharp win over Leprechaun Kid in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race Aug. 4. Leprechaun Kid came back to finish second by less than a length behind Hollywood Drama in the $49,000 Two Year Old Sales Stakes last Saturday.

Trainer Ron Smith likes the way Country Button is coming up to the race.

“He seems to be a decent horse, and he’s really good right now,” Smith said.

If Country Button wins, and he should, it would be the second stakes win this week for the Canadian Hall of Fame trainer, who won his 2,500th race earlier this year. Last Sunday, Smith won the $15,000 Alberta Derby with Double Kisses at Alberta Downs. Double Kisses won the one-mile race on grass by eight lengths with Richard Mangalee in the irons.

“It was a fun day,” Smith said. “I saw a lot of old friends, and it was nice to win the derby.”

Rico Walcott rides Country Button.

Walcott’s agent Bob Fowlis surprised himself when he got a hole-in-one at the Canadian Derby Golf Tournament on Monday. Along with bragging rights, Fowlis will receive a $10,000 prize for his lucky shot.

Sharp as Ever is coming off a solid debut going 3 1/2 furlongs in a maiden special weight restricted to Alberta-breds on Aug. 8 and shouldn’t mind the added distance. Hollywood Drama came out of the race to edge Country Button in the Sales Stakes.

Trained by Garry Marks, Sharp as Ever is the first foal to race out of Brassy Nancy, who won four sprints and was stakes placed as a 2-year-old.

Leading rider Scott Williams rides Sharp as Ever.

Symphonium is a half-sister to Gary’s Buddy, who won the 2008 Western Canada Handicap at Northlands. Trained by Craig Smith, she figures to improve in her second start.